The Writer as Witness

Joyce Carol Oates and Karin Haugen

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Joyce Carol Oates and Karin Haugen

Joyce Carol Oates is one of the world’s greatest living writers, and is frequently cited as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature. It is truly a momentous occasion that Oates will visit the House of Literature, and in doing so will be visiting Norway for the very first time.

Through more than one hundred books spanning most genres, the American legend writes tenderly and with precision about our societies’ great questions.

«The opposite of language is silence and silence for human beings is death», Oates said after receiving the prestigious National Book Award for her 1969 novel Them. The novel is considered one of her major works, and will now be available in Norwegian translation for the first time. In Them, we follow a forking class family living under harsh conditions in Detroit, from the 1930s and until the bloody race riots in 1967.

Oates has also written fiction based on real events or people, such as her best-selling novel Blonde, based on Marilyn Monroe’s life and death, which was adapted into a film in 2022. Her latest novel, Babysitter, is set in the aftermath of a number of unsolved child-killings in Detroit in the 1970s. Here, Oates explores racism, sexual harassment and institutional abuse in ways that make the story feel deeply relevant, even to today’s society marked by MeToo and Black Lives Matter.

The core of her writing, according to Oates herself, is to “be a witness” – to tell the stories of those who have no one speaking for them. She writes about racism, misogyny, violence and social injustices with a keen eye for politics and history, combined with deep psychological insight and literary precision.

Oates has won a number of literary prizes for her extensive body of work. She has been a professor of creative writing at Princeton University and UC Berkeley for many years and a central literary mentor for writers such as Jonathan Safran Foer and Mohsin Hamid.

When the author visits Norway and the House of Literature for the very first time, the event will take place in the University of Oslo’s ceremonial hall, so that as many people as possible can take part in the event. Here, she will meet writer and journalist Karin Haugen for a conversation about a long writing life and the power of literature.

The day before the conversation at the University of Oslo’s ceremonial hall, the 15th of August, Oates will be giving a lecture about the role of art, inspiration and the wellspring of creativity. Read more here (

Litteraturhuset Universitetets aula (Karl Johans gate 47) In English

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